Father Kevin Hale on The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Fr. Kevin Hale with me at the Fontana di Trevi, Roma, February 2012.
Father Kevin gave a particularly moving homily today which I felt I needed to share here. It centred around the Sacred Heart, which we particularly reflect on in June, and which has a special connotation for the sanctity of priests. In his homily this week, he shares some personal experiences which have led him to develop a rather profound understanding of the importance of this devotion for the Catholic family. This had particular resonance for me as, coming from Irish stock, there was always a picture of the Sacred Heart with a lamp burning in every home.

I think what struck me today in particular was the way in which Fr. Kevin has correctly identified practical measures for each of us to engage with in order to achieve those things which we all want in our homes, namely peace, love and respect in our families and homes, success in our undertakings and a shared and growing fervour in our hearts for the perfect communion of Heaven. Father Kevin is a true Apostle and our Good Shepherd in Southend, he is working hard for each one of us and like any Good Father, he wants us to be happy and fulfilled, He knows that the best way for us to achieve this is in our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, and so he constantly, gently, attempts to lead us closer to Him. Thank you Father, and I pray we, your spiritual children, all have the courage to take up the challenge you have laid before us.

This is a transcript of Father's homily:

Tenth Sunday of the Year (C)
When I was young I used to spend some of the Summer holiday staying with my Great Aunts in Dublin. One of them had been Housekeeper to a priest and they were very pious. At the top of their stairs there was statue of Our Lord showing His Heart, open, wounded, full of love. A little red lamp burned in front of it, the kind that many of their generation will remember, and it fascinated me. They never left the house without pausing to greet Our Lord and it so impressed my young mind. As I grew up and went to College the significance of this devotion went a bit lukewarm and I didn’t much like some of the art associated with it. But I now see how very central it is to what we believe. Because it’s all about what we have to be, how we have to live: with hearts like the Heart of Jesus, full of love and compassion.

Jesus stops a funeral procession for the simple reason that He has compassion. The Prophet Elijah too, had compassion on the woman who had lost her child. Compassion means we suffer-with. This is the meaning of the feast we have celebrated on Friday: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If you look at the statue of the Sacred Heart in this Church, an image of Our Lord much venerated and prayed before, it has always struck me as I pass before Him each morning after Mass, how He has been given such sad eyes. They seem to say to me: "look how much I have loved you, but what little love I receive in return!"

The origin of our modern-day devotion to the Heart of Jesus is an attempt to see His humanity better. Jesus, as God, has a Heart, a divine Heart, but also a human Heart. In 1673 Our Lord revealed to a humble, pious, enclosed,  nun – Saint Margaret Mary - something of what His love is like. This is nothing more than we read and see in the Gospels, in all the acts of love Jesus shows in His life, with His interacting with people, and above all the love shown on Calvary, which culminates in the opening of His side with the lance, showing to the world definitely his Heart, wounded and broken for humanity.

These are some of promises Jesus made to St Margaret Mary by Our Lord:
  • I promise the infinite mercy of my Heart and the grace of final repentance, to all those who observe the first Friday of the month by going to Mass and Holy Communion. 
  • I establish peace in their families 
  • I will bestow a special blessing on their undertakings 
  • Tepid souls will grow fervent 
  • I will bless every place where an image of My Heart shall be venerated, and 
  • I will give priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts. 
Now this is private revelation, but approved and encouraged by the Church, so we can believe it; and generations and generations of Catholic Families have tried to put Christ at the heart of family life in this simple and beautiful way. It seems to me that, despite all of the complexities of life in the world today, and the many sociological reasons we may find, the direction in which the break-up and disintegration of family life seems to have gone, is in direct proportion to the way in which Christ has been dethroned from our homes and families. It’s a consideration, and the solution seems pretty obvious. Put Christ and prayer at the heart of the family and the home and there will be peace, happiness, sound relationships and fruitful married life. Make the home and family the place where Christ is loved and spoken about. The place where we feel safe to talk and explain the basics of our Catholic belief. Also, ensure that our young people do not go to those places, and keep company with those, who will lead them away from what we consider so precious and cultivate in our homes.

Jesus never passed-by someone suffering or in need. But it is very easy to do so. Daily we come across people who are suffering, dying, both in body and spirit. There is no limit to the compassion that is possible from us. Pope Francis said recently that we should look poor or suffering persons in the eye; then we would never pass-them-by. We are other-Christs because we have been configured to Him and therefore loved by Him. This is the radicalness of our Faith and it is the essence of the love of the Heart of Christ we celebrate in this month.

The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary follows the feasts of the Sacred Heart. Her heart exists only for the love of Christ; her vocation is simply to draw us to Him. When we go to her we go to Jesus; their two hearts united in love for us.


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